I have raised our children and embraced middle age with my spouse and golden retriever. I often marvel at the intelligent, compassionate, and independent young adults which my children have become. I would like to take credit for their accomplishments but must admit that I was a member of the “helicopter parents” prevalent in the 1990s. Psychologists hypothesize that our helicoptering evolved from our fear for children’s physical safety and emotional stability. The media was partly at fault as news events, particularly terrible and scary, were more easily and frequently disseminated. To insure safety, we ambitiously tried to prepare the path for the child, not the child for the path. As we overprotected and over- directed our offspring, we hampered their intellectual and emotional freedoms.
During this time parents closely supervised activities on the playground, facilitated interactions during play dates, rewarded all players with a trophy, hid cell phones in luggage for summer camp, challenged sports coaches, and faulted teachers if their child did not excel. My generation was so busy organizing and controlling every aspect of their children’s lives that we often forgot to teach them life skills, let them take risks, make mistakes, experience disappointment, and build resilience. Most of your parents are my age and perhaps they were somewhat over involved in your life growing up. I encourage you to accept their “meddling” as an act of love. While the consequences were frequently criticized, the intentions were laudable.
As a side note, my staff and I have recently read How To Raise An Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims. The book is excellent, and I highly recommend it. The author provides invaluable insight and guidance into parenting children of all ages, including teenagers.
I believe that your parenting style is different from your parents and mine. I applaud you for adopting a more balanced approach. In my opinion, you “helicopter” less, encourage growth and independence more, model initiative taking and accountability, and build confidence and character in your children. While you are there to support your child through successes and disappointments, you are not trying to fix and control things. I am proud to lead a community of parents with realistic expectations and confident in their approaches and choices. I am blessed that you trust the administration and faculty of Wesley UMC Preschool not only to love and nurture each child as an individual but also to teach them how to successfully serve as a member of a community.
Another change between my generation and yours is church attendance. Our families regularly attended church where we experienced fellowship, and God’s unconditional love and grace. That is no longer the case. Approximately 36% of Americans currently attend church services weekly; only 20% of young adults choose church on the weekend. I encourage you to prayerfully consider sharing a community of faith with your children so they can learn more about the value of kindness, patience, hope, joy, humility, and forgiveness. The human heart can only find true peace with a strong faith. Love is an action, not a quality. When life is challenging, and it will be, faith will help you and your children light a candle, not retreat into darkness.